Posted in Music - General

The ‘English Note’

‘English Note’:

First memories of listening to this was probably when I was 7 or 8. Vaguely remember discussions in the house on what a genius composition this was by Madurai Mani Iyer and how finally Carnatic music has an ‘apparent answer’ to the western music snobbishness.

Here is the Mani Iyer version:

Thanks to the movie ‘Thillana Mohanambal’, I even had a great visual to accompany this theory (that I was being benignly subjected to) and every other thing that I had learned about ‘Note’. To say that the Note just got etched in my memory would be an understatement. The starting notes ‘Ga Ma Ga Ri Ga Pa Ri Ga Sa’ echo in my ears the moment I think of the ‘Note’.

Here is the Thillana Mohanambal clip:

A few years later, when my music teacher taught me all the notes of this ‘Note’, needless to say, I was thrilled. Felt as if my carnatic music mission was accomplished. I was 12 or 13 then.  There is something about the ‘English Note’ that always gets me excited, even today, even after exposure to newer & newer musical genres and a bit more understanding of how they all are related. Yes, I find the whole ‘apparent answer’ thingy, silly today, but I can appreciate the thought process behind such a claim back then. Perhaps it is something to do with the very basic notion of showing my remote rebel attitude, because this composition offers me the possibility of straying away from a rigid ‘Arohanam’ and ‘Avarahonam’ structure.   After listening to several great musicians play this ‘Note’, it’s safe to say that there really have not been too many real variations.

Here is a T.M. Krishna version I like:

Almost as if the carnatic musicians just didn’t want to experiment with this composition or add their own style to it, for the fear of such a thing either backfiring or the very notion that it’s beyond them.

So finally, when I listened to a new variation of this composition in the album ‘Ramanujan’ (an upcoming movie on a genius Mathematician), I was like ‘Wow’. Ramesh Vinayakam (who hasn’t got his fair share in the industry yet, IMO), delivers a version which takes the ‘English Note’ by its western horns and hits it cleanly out of the park.

Take a listen here to Ramesh Vinayakam’s version:

Do you agree with me now that Ramesh hasn’t gotten his proper due yet?

(Note: This link has the entire album. Listen to the whole album if you can. A gem.)